Jun 3 | Helene Wolf

Developing a better way to assess a FAIR SHARE of women leaders

Less than 6 months ago, we started FAIR SHARE based on data that indicated the following: in many civil society organisations (CSOs), about 70% of the staff were women while 70% of the leaders were men. Starting with the large international CSOs, we sought to verify this data. If this data was correct, we aimed to help our sector close the gap.

As expected, we found a number of CSOs that had about 70% women on their staff and quite a few with 30% or less women in their leadership. However, to our surprise, we also found organisations that had fewer than 30% women staff in total. Our Monitor does not provide answers why this is the case, but it does provide the data for formulating questions such as: Why do some CSOs, including some of those focusing on children, women or gender equality, employ more men than women? And, why do some organisations have such large gaps in the representation of women on their staff and leadership?

The figures raised some more issues we hadn’t anticipated, namely:

Our definition of a FAIR SHARE of women leaders as “% of women staff is equal to % of women leaders” allows organisations that have 30% of women staff to only employ 30% of women in leadership roles. In the extreme case, this could mean employing only men and being led by only men. Obviously, this doesn’t reflect our understanding of equality. Thus, rather than serving our intention of increasing the number of women leaders, the FAIR SHARE equation could be used to suggest an organisation could decrease the number of women it employs and subsequently narrow the gap.

In short, we had to adapt our FAIR SHARE concept to make sure that women do not only have a fair chance to rise to leadership positions but also, a fair chance to be employed in our sector in the first place.

With the help of experts, we adapted our FAIR SHARE rating system in order to reflect these priorities. With the updated Monitor published on 04 June, we switch to a rating which still considers the gap between the percentages of women staff and women leaders. However, this gap counts for only 50% of our new FAIR SHARE Index. The other 50% weighs the degree to which CSOs have achieved 50% of women staff, 50% of women on boards and 50% of women in their SMTs.

We believe that, with our new rating system we have found a solid basis upon which we can analyse our sector’s progress towards a truly FAIR SHARE of women leaders.